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by: Chelsea Tull A St. Helens School District Boundary Review Committee proposed using Pittsburg Road as a dividing line for McBride Elementary School and Lewis and Clark Elementary School attendance
zones. The school board is expected to hold a public hearing on the map proposal on March 21.

St. Helens School District officials last week released a proposed map separating the district between elementary school attendance zones as it moves forward with a reconfiguration strategy approved in February.

So far, the proposed boundary - which would split the district between students who would attend McBride Elementary School and Lewis and Clark Elementary School - has been favorably received, said St. Helens Superintendent Mark Davalos.

'Parents have had questions, but it's been pretty positive,' he said. 'We haven't been met with a lot of resistance.'

A Boundary Review Committee composed of parents, school board members, district staff and transportation representatives presented the district boundary map at public meetings on March 13 and 15.

A hearing on the boundary map is scheduled March 21 during the regular school board meeting, starting at 6 p.m. Board adoption of the map is expected April 25.

The district is reconfiguring attendance zones for its elementary schools, including shuttering the Columbia City school, to cultivate cost savings in the face of shrinking state education revenue and to reduce the number of student transfers among schools.

District-estimated first-year cost savings following the reconfiguration is expected to be $156,000.

The district is midway through a two-year plan to shed $3 million from its budget, half of which will manifest in cuts in the 2012-13 school year, Davalos said. He said days could be trimmed from the calendar to fill in the budget hole, a possibility following a recent settlement with the teachers union that allows for school day cuts.

Students experience four transfers as part of a St. Helens School District K-12 education in the current format. Following the reconfiguration, students can expect two transfers, from K-6 elementary school to middle school, and middle school to high school. Davalos cited non-specific studies that indicate fewer transfers result in student learning improvement.

The main north-south dividing line in the proposed boundary map is Pittsburg Road, with students on the north side attending Lewis and Clark and those on the south side attending McBride.

Davalos said separate bus routes would service those who live north or south of the dividing line.

The Boundary Review Committee had been tasked to consider demographic criteria as it relates to proposed K-6 school attendance zones. Both schools have available capacity to meet expected attendance, which is expected to be 846 students at Lewis and Clark and 687 students at McBride, according to district assessments.

Other criteria considered were the percentage of free and reduced lunch students and the ethnic make-up at each school.

'I think we've hit the mark on the criteria we've been given,' Davalos said.

Free and reduced lunch qualifying students under the new model would make up 60 percent of the student population at Lewis and Clark and 47 percent at McBride. The percentage of ethnic students at each school is 19 and 18 percent, respectively.

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